Thanksgiving is my favorite Holiday …because there’s nothing to advertise. There’s nothing to buy. Ever since giving gifts to Indians went out of style Thanksgiving is no longer one of our gift–giving holidays. That’s a good thing!
No, Thanksgiving is the last of the pure holidays. Nothing commercial, nothing to promote, nothing but an opportunity to do just what it sounds like: give thanks. Think about it, there’s exactly one Thanksgiving holiday song. “Over the River and through the Woods” and all that. There’s pretty much only one industry that depends on this day, the turkey industry. Pretty small potatoes, that. Thanksgiving pretty much equals going home.
Think for a moment about your Thanksgiving, this year and in years past. There’s an awful lot of sameness about it, isn’t there? The years of the gatherings all blend together because this is the one holiday where we go out of our way to do those same things year after year. Same meal; same pies; same games; same traditions. For as long as it can be, same people.
My earliest Thanksgiving memories actually revolve around football. In New England the Thanksgiving day football game represents the peak of the high school football season. Most high schools played a game against some decades–old rival, some of these rivalries extending back to before World War II. It was always cold. Man, it was always so cold. I had my first cup of coffee at a Southbridge versus Bartlett Thanksgiving Day football game at Bartlett; they ran out of hot chocolate before halftime. The games themselves were huge, played by heroes too large to describe. No dream was bigger for my Pop Warner football teammates than to be a part of the Southbridge–Bartlett Thanksgiving game someday. I played in one as a freshman before we moved. Three more Thanksgiving Day games in Rhode Island, Lincoln versus Shea, rounded out my playing days, but every other year for two more decades Thanksgiving day started with two hours bundled up in the stands watching the game.
Then we ate! You remember what you had for Thanksgiving at age 10 and 15, 20 and 25 because you had the same thing EVERY YEAR! Each and every family has its traditions. Turkey, of course, but it was really the fixins that set each family apart. Ours was a pretty standard table, much more proletariat then patrician no matter how well-off the family might have been. Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, creamed onions and corn, with the simplest bread stuffing bursting out of the bird. It’s funny how a Thanksgiving Day tradition can highlight the differences between families, too. My wife Beth’s family got all of their turkey day fixings from the local farms, everything fresh and homemade. Neither way was better or worse, and that’s really part of the point. It’s Thanksgiving, and it’s always enough…always good.
Even the changes that eventually come, the evolution of any particular family’s Thanksgiving day traditions, represent a call to home. When our oldest, Danny, went to college a couple years ago we decided to bring our family Thanksgiving celebration home, to our house. The kids returned to their own home and visits with their childhood friends, just like we had done for so many years in our “ancestral” homes. Thanksgiving is all about the coming together. The gifting is in the giving of your time, your presence to the rest of family gathered. Even stuff that comes in from the outside like the annual Detroit Lions massacre is about the coming together with everyone gathered around the television set in various stages of repose or food coma.
Yup, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Nothing fancy, nothing to buy, as little pressure as there can possibly be on an American holiday. All about home. All about family. All about being thankful for both. As cold as it may be outside it’s always warm in the house. There’s football, some kind of football, even if I don’t get to go to a traditional New England rivalry game. Each year is enough of the same that it, too, will blend in with all that came before.
And did I mention the pies?